Breaking Down Each of the Boston Red Sox's Potential ALDS Opponents

Joe Giglio@@JoeGiglioSportsContributor ISeptember 20, 2013

Breaking Down Each of the Boston Red Sox's Potential ALDS Opponents

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    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    At 93-61, the Boston Red Sox are steamrolling the American League, guaranteed a spot in the postseason and likely headed for the top seed in the league.

    When October arrives, expect Boston to take on the winner of the six-team wild-card bonanza currently taking place in the American League. Assuming Boston does hold on to the top spot in eh AL, it will be taking on an opponent that expended energy throughout September just to reach the Division Series.

    Will the Red Sox take advantage and move on to the American League Championship Series? If they do, they'll reach that juncture after beating one of the following clubs: Tampa Bay, Texas, Cleveland, Kansas City, Baltimore or New York.

    The following is a breakdown of Red Sox's potential opponents, starting with the team they would most like to see in October and counting down to the wild-card contender they should hope to avoid.

    *All statistics and records valid through the start of play on September 20. The author is predicting Boston holds on to the top spot, with Detroit and Oakland winning the other divisions, which is why they are not included.

New York Yankees

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Boston record vs. New York in 2013: 13-6

    I know, I know: Yankees-Red Sox in the bright lights of October could take on a totally different vibe than the 19 games played between the two teams during the regular season. In addition, if New York finds a way to rally from a 3.5-game deficit with only nine games left in the season, it'll have to come in a scorching-hot outfit.

    All that is irrelevant if these teams do battle in a Division Series in early October because of how thoroughly the Red Sox dominated the Yankees this season.

    In 19 games, Boston outscored New York 120-85. That 35 run differential is more than Tampa Bay or Washington have outscored their respective opponents by for the entire season.

    Karma, history and the past would dominate your television coverage if this series came to fruition, but the Red Sox wouldn't complain.

    Prediction for potential ALDS: Boston in 3

Kansas City Royals

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    Ed Zurga/Getty Images

    Boston record vs. Kansas City in 2013: 2-5

    Although the Royals have done a good job winning five of seven against Boston in 2013, the Red Sox should welcome a battle with the young upstart team from the AL Central.

    After decades of futility, the Royals have found a way to stay in the wild-card race and give their fans meaningful September baseball, but once October hits, two things will stop their magic carpet ride from taking off: inexperience and the likelihood of only having James Shields available for one game in the Division Series.

    While saying Kansas City would enter October with "happy to be there syndrome" isn't quite fair, it's tough to imagine a team that has struggled to win consistently all season suddenly taking three of five games from a team like Boston.

    Part of that reason? James Shields (3.33 ERA) will likely be used in either the season finale to get Kansas City into the postseason or the wild-card play-in game. If he's not available for two starts against Boston, the Royals don't have a shot.

    Prediction for potential ALDS: Boston in 4

Texas Rangers

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    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Boston Record vs. Texas in 2013: 2-4

    Despite Texas' pedigree as a recent postseason mainstay and ability to throw a Cy Young contender like Yu Darvish and playoff-tested arms like Matt Garza and Derek Holland across a short series, there's something about the Rangers in the postseason that makes them a ripe candidate for Boston.

    With questions circulating about Ron Washington's job and an offense that only features Adrian Beltre as a well above-average hitter, Boston's well-oiled machine is much more prepared for postseason success than Texas.

    Furthermore, at 42-34, Boston has the best road record in the American League among division leaders. Playing at a ballpark that is tailored for power hitting and strikeout pitching, the Rangers have only been four games above .500 (39-35) in Arlington this season, opening the door for Boston to end a potential series quickly if it took the first two games at Fenway.

    Prediction for potential ALDS: Boston in 4

Baltimore Orioles

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Boston record vs. Baltimore in 2013: 7-9

    On paper, the Baltimore Orioles shouldn't be able to hang with the Red Sox in a five- or seven-game series. Despite a lineup featuring Chris Davis, Adam Jones and Manny Machado, the current Orioles don't have the high-end starting pitching to shutdown the Red Sox lineup enough to let their stars slug out wins.

    Yet, Baltimore plays Boston very, very tough.

    The 7-9 ledger against Baltimore in 2013 isn't an aberration, but rather a three-year trend. Since opening day in 2011, the Baltimore Orioles are 30-22 against the Boston Red Sox. Of those 30 victories, the most memorable sent the Red Sox home on the final night of the 2011 season.

    Call it the Buck Showalter factor. Call it familiarity in the division. Call it luck.

    Describe it anyway you choose, but make sure to give the Orioles a shot if this ALDS comes to fruition.

    Prediction for potential ALDS: Boston in 5

Cleveland Indians

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Boston record vs. Cleveland in 2013: 6-1

    Picture this: Former Red Sox pitcher Justin Masterson—after good news in a weekend bullpen session, per The News-Herald & The Morning Journal—throws seven shutout innings in Game 1 of the ALDS at Fenway Park. The game, tied after eight innings, is won on former Yankee Nick Swisher's top-of-the-ninth home run off a Boston left-handed reliever.

    The reason Red Sox manager John Farrell allowed the switch-hitting Swisher to take aim at the Green Monster as a right-handed batter? Terry Francona's decision to bat Swisher directly ahead of left-handed swinging Jason Kipnis.

    A nightmare scenario may just be a dream, but if Francona's Indians do crash the postseason party, they have a power lineup and enough starting pitching, assuming Masterson can return, to make the Red Sox truly sweat.

    Prediction for potential ALDS: Boston in 5

Tampa Bay Rays

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    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Boston record vs. Tampa Bay in 2013: 12-7

    Despite sprinting past the Rays in August to put a stranglehold on the American League East, the Boston Red Sox have four reasons to fear Tampa in a short series: Price, Cobb, Moore and Archer.

    Tampa Bay's projected rotation, even in the event David Price has to pitch the one-game wild-card playoff, is scary.

    While injuries to Price (112 ERA-plus), Cobb (126 ERA-plus) and Moore (114 ERA-plus), along with Archer's (126 ERA-plus) season starting in the minor leagues, haven't allowed this quartet to pitch consecutively all season long, they are more than capable of reeling off a few weeks of dominance together once the postseason starts.

    If they do, the ALDS might just be a steppingstone.

    As the wild-card battle rages on, root against Tampa Bay, Red Sox fans.

    Prediction for potential ALDS: Tampa Bay in 5

    Agree? Disagree? Who should the Red Sox fear most?

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